Conventionally, the Interferon forms the first line drug in various viral
infections like Hepatitis C
, AIDS related Kaposi’s sarcoma, warts as well as
various parasitic infections and some variety of tumors.
Technically, the interferon is an antibiotic formed in lower organisms in
response to viral infections. It belongs to the class of glycoproteins. It is of
three types: alpha, beta and gamma; each having different action. It mainly acts
by inhibiting replication of virus.
Interferon is usually administered by an intramuscular injection. The injection
of interferon in the muscle, in the vein, or under skin is generally well
Some of the common adverse effects of interferon can be described as under:
Side effects associated with interferon, vary from person to person and are
usually worst during first few weeks of therapy.
Tissue damage at the site of injection occurs with all of the interferon but
more commonly with interferon beta-1b and pegylated interferon alfa-2b.
Flu-like symptoms typically include a low-grade fever, chills, headache, muscle
and joint aches, fatigue, and weakness. These side effects may occur throughout
treatment, but tend to be most pronounced during the first month of treatment
and to diminish as treatment progresses.
Causes or contributes to insomnia
Increases sensitivity to sun called as photosensitivity. So, application of
sunscreen to exposed areas and wearing of hat is recommended for patients
receiving interferon therapy.
It may cause or worsen underlying anxiety and depression. Interferon therapy can
also cause irritability, confusion, emotional instability, insomnia and a lack
or concentration. All alcohol, nicotine and caffeine should be eliminated, as
these substances may exacerbate anxiety and depression.
Depression and suicide have been reported amongst the patients receiving
interferon. Therefore, all patients receiving treatment with an interferon
should be observed for the development of depression and suicidal thoughts.
Interferon may also cause thyroid abnormalities, symptoms of which may mimic
psychiatric disorders. Individuals on interferon must have their thyroid profile
periodically be checked via blood tests.
Other side effects:
Caused by higher doses are fatigue, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain,
joint aches, back pain and dizziness, anorexia, congestion, increased heart
rate, confusion, low white blood cell count, low platelet count, low red blood
cell count, an increase in liver enzymes, an increase in triglycerides,
temporary skin rashes, mild hair loss or hair thinning, swelling (edema), cough
or difficulty breathing.
Little hair loss may be experienced. However, the hair loss is not as severe as
what the chemotherapy for cancer produces.